Hi! I’m Tomasz Lasek and I am hailing from Gdańsk, Poland. I live, love and make everything that’s possible to be the best human being I can. I stare at the void and when I see that the void stares back at me, I show it my toy photography.
I started with toy photography somewhen in 2014. My wife’s little cousin received three ridiculously large boxes of mixed LEGO from his distant relatives and it was the first time I had seen LEGO in years. We spent a few afternoons and one night sorting and building. One of the results of this work was the completion of 4483 AT-AT Walker, the second – back to my interest in LEGO.
As a kid, I was, of course, a fan of LEGO but later toys fell out of my orbit and the so called “dark ages” began. Then LEGO bricks came back from the void. I felt again the great pleasure and joy of playing with bricks. And so, a few happy coincidences later, I started taking pictures of LEGO. Of course, at the beginning only by phone and against a white sheet of paper.
I would never have thought that thanks to toy photography I would meet a lot of great people from all over the world, become a part of fantastic community, work with communities such as Brick Central or Stuck In Plastic, to finally join the great team of Toy Photographers blog and become an ambassador of this community in dealing with LEGO. I would never have thought that my photos would appear in print in the Brick Journal and that together with this magazine we would be working on a feature, which will highlight toy photographers on the BrickJournal website. Life can surprise you!
I think what I like most about taking LEGO photos is creating tiny worlds, either with bricks or in nature. Over the years, I also liked playing with light. Searching for the best lighting for a given scene gives me at least as much fun as searching for the perfect angle.
I draw ideas from the broadly understood area of culture [including the one with the prefix pop-], mainly it’s music, movies, sometimes literature, memes and comics. Sometimes ideas just pop into my head by themselves. And space. Space is a quite big source of inspiration.
I don’t have one process set for all photos. Each time it looks bit different, but roughly, I have an idea that has been marinating in my head for several days to several months. Due to the so-called life, I rarely execute an idea on the same day. In the meantime, the idea is arranged in my imagination into a specific frame, which, when it finally comes to implementation, does not always turn out to be feasible. Then I improvise and experiment to put this idea in a slightly different form. Again, depending on the circumstances, the finished picture is marinated on the disk from several hours to several weeks. I usually try to make a sooc [straight out of camera] photo as close to my vision as possible, so the editing is usually minimal and is usually limited to removing wires, dust particles, etc.
As I mentioned, editing is not the most important element when I take pictures, it is rather intended to make small corrections or mask minor imperfections. Although I couldn’t imagine it before, I do all the editing on my phone. So I use the TouchRetouch application to remove wires, dust, or clean the contours after focus stacking. I also use the free version of Lightroom Mobile and Snapseed. I also use Pixlr sometimes, both in the mobile and desktop version. The wire remover app certainly helps make my toys fly, but in general I try to keep the photo as little editing as possible.
For practical reasons, I prefer both environments, although I admit that taking pictures outside is both more pleasant [fresh air!] and sometimes easier [light, bokeh]. On the other hand, taking photos indoors allows you to have more control over the light and surroundings. Where I live, autumn and winter are not conducive to taking photos outside when you work until 4 PM, because when you get home it’s already too dark, not to mention the lack of sunny days.
Of course, the choice of place also depends on the mood and subject of the photo, although sometimes, depending on the season, I have to compromise.
The basic elements of my equipment are [apart from the camera of course]: various wires and small twigs that are used to pose the figures, blu tac [lots of blu tac!] to keep the figures where I want them, and an electronic cigarette [kids! don’t try it at home!] and a paper drinking straw.
I’m not a smoker, so the electronic cigarette serves as a smoke machine for me. So I only use base e-liquid, no nicotine or other additives. And of course I’m not taking a puff!
I don’t really have any expectations, but if someone comes across my photos, it would be nice if they smiled.
Taking into account the fact that I shoot indoors for a large part of the year, and the studio’s location is usually the kitchen table, the backgrounds are a challenge. Of course, I have a few regular LEGO sets that I use as a background, but I’m not a MOCer and I don’t have enough bricks to always make the surroundings of my photos completely brick built. I also have a “wall” on duty, which I built of blocks, and which I use most often in photos of spaceship interiors, and a salt mine mini-MOC, which is most often used as caves. But this is the only structure I built myself. So I usually use a digirama, which is simply a computer screen, or everyday objects that take on a completely different shape in the right setting and light. Sometimes I also create outer space using a sheet of black paper or the sheet of black paper with glitter on it.
Choosing Your Subject
Paradoxically, what attracts me to photographing minifigures is their limitations. Minifigs only have seven points of articulation and are rather bulky, unlike for example action figures. It’s kind of a challenge to work around or use these limitations to create a good photo. I also like the colors and accessories of the minifigures. And of course I’m a LEGO fan. Besides, how can you resist that smiley face on the yellow head?
Advice to Younger Self
If I could have appeared in front of myself almost 9 years ago [how time flies!] I would have said: let go of taking pictures against a white sheet of paper! Go outside and start taking photos outdoors. Collect as many lamps as possible and experiment. And by the way, read about photography [including TP blog!] and watch photos of the best, not only toy, photographers. But first of all, practice your craft and take as many photos as possible.
Tips for Beginner
Everything I wrote above plus: don’t compare yourself to others. Sure, it’s nice to admire or sometimes even be inspired by other photographers, but it’s not worth comparing yourself. Try to find your own niche, whether it’s a subject or a technique, something you’re comfortable with, and start there. And remember, it’s all about fun!
And don’t forget to check out other wonderful photographers who’ve already participated in our Feature Friday showcase